The Carlisle Automotive Components Group engineers plastics and rubber components for a variety of automakers. Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Mazda, and Subaru all rely on the company.
But with 17 facilities, one of Carlisle's biggest challenges is communication. Imagine trying to schedule a meeting between workers at the molded plastics plant in Tuscaloosa, AL, sales and marketing in Livonia, MI, the injection molded rubber plant in Ashtabula, OH, the injection molded plastics plant in Chihuahua, Mexico, and a molded plastics plant in Birmingham, U.K? Now multiply that process by the company's 3,000 product bids per year. And did I mention that the Big Three automakers each use a different CAD platform?
What Carlisle needed was a CAD equivalent of Adobe Acrobat, the free viewer that lets graphics designers share their creations as .PDF files.
So they looked at Spinfire from Actify. This software tool lets designers share CAD files with others, even if they don't share the same CAD platform. It converts any file into a secure and compact document called .3D, readable by anyone who's loaded Actify's free viewer onto their PC, says Mark Gisi, Actify's VP of business development.
Sounds simple, but such a solution must overcome technical challenges such as large file sizes, over 20 different CAD file formats, and assemblies that are composites of multiple files. Actify's latest, Spinfire version 5.0, is a scalable application allowing companies to host their own communication sessions, and extend that web across a network of employees, partners, customers, and suppliers.
It does that with a traditional client (Spinfire Professional) and server (Spinfire Server) setup. Carlisle relied on Microsoft to set that up, using Microsoft's .NET framework and C# programming language, alongside XML web standards.
Another popular, enterprise-wide, CAD-file viewing and markup tool is Spicer's ViewCafe. Now in version 3.0, the Java-2-based thin-client can work as either a simple browser applet or a standalone application.
Users who are willing to insist that all viewers use the same design platform can use a proprietary communication tool. For instance, SensAble's new Visual Communication Package (VCP) includes both Render and Publish modules for users of its FreeForm CAD. And it guarantees high file security, since the shared file version cannot be translated back into manufacturable data.